Today Fiat operates an engine plant in the Polish city of Bielsko-Biała. Once this was the place, where the Fiat 126p was produced under licence. Its work was aided by Bosmal, a design and engineering company
Bosmal is with us today offering various diagnostic and testing services. Its headquarters houses a museum, where some of their prototypes are being shown.
So what is Bosmal?
In 1970 FSO, the sole Polish passenger car factory in Warsaw was bursting at the seams: most of the production capacity was devoted to the new Fiat 125p. The ancient Warszawa was to be retired, while the diminutive Syrena had to go. Also on 29 October, 1971 the Polish government signed an agreement with Fiat regarding the licence of a yet-to-be-introduced small car, the successor to the 500, which was to be called the 126…
So a new plant was envisioned. By cobbling together several parts making enterprises FSM (Fabryka Samochodów Małolitrażowych – Small Car Factory) was set up in 1971 in Bielsko-Biała. The coordinate production processes and iron out any difficulties, an engineering company was also crated. Called the Ośrodek Badawczo-Rozwojowy Samochodów Małolitrażowych BOSMAL (Small Car Research and Development Center). The main tasks of the Centre included development works, ongoing design support for the manufacturing operations as well as all research related to materials, parts and assemblies as well as complete cars. In the initial period, the Centre’s tasks concerned mainly the launch of the transferred manufactre of Syrena (especially the 105 L and BOSTO models), and later the implementation of a Polish FIAT 126p license car.
Production of the Polish 126 was launched in 1973. Bosmal engineers were on hand at all times. But they were a creative bunch. In their spare time they put together a proposal for a small van. The 126p-based prototype, called Bombel was shown in 1974. Though the public liked it, production plans were soon shelved. None of the 16 prototypes survive.
Undeterred Bosmal engineers came up with a new idea, a 126p lengthened by 10 cm. Called the 126p Long it had a useable rear seat area. Then came the Kombi, an estate version of the 126p. All these were great ideas, but production was impossible.
In 1975, the Sport Automobile Workshop was established in BOSMAL, which had prepared FSM production cars for rally and race events in Poland and abroad.
In May 1977, work began on a very radical project: a Polski-Fiat 126p with front-wheel drive. The car received the abbreviated name NP (from the Polish words for front-wheel-drive). Though stylistically it was not the most successful project (although the changes were made under the watchful eye of stylists from the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts) it was a very forward looking idea. To fit the engine, the 126p gained a rather disproportionately elongated frontThe first prototype was completed in December 1978. There were a lot of technical changes in it. First of all, the engine was rotated 180 degrees and positioned in front of the front axle. Instead of the transverse spring, the designers used a modern solution, i.e. MacPherson struts and transverse control arms. The car also had a classic rack gear instead of a worm gear and disc brakes on the front axle. The 652 cc engine was still air-cooled, but the change in unit construction made it necessary to redesign the cooling blower. By increasing the compression ratio and several other treatments, the engine power increased from 24 to 26 HP. Of course, the rigid drive shafts had to be replaced by those with parallel joints.
Between 1978-1986 several upgraded prototypes were created. One is being shown today in the Bosmal museum.
However the most daring and forward-thinking project of the company was the Beskid. In 1981 a team, led byby engineer Wieslaw Wiatrak, began work on a possible replacement for the 126p. By Spring, 1983 the first prototype was completed. Its aeordynamic body had a drag coefficient of just 0.29. It was penned by Krzysztof Meissner of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. To help lower the wind resistance, the underside of the little vehicle was also designed to be smooth.
There were actually seven or so prototypes of the Beskid, in three variations. All of them had a 2150mm wheelbase, a height of 1364mm, a 1530mm width, a ground clearance of 135mm, and a weight of slightly over 630kg. And while the third series prototypes had an extended length of 3.5 metres, the rest were 3235mm long. Brakes were drums at front and rear on the early examples, later the front received discs. The all-round independent suspension featured MacPherson struts at front and trailing arms at the rear. Most of the prototypes differed in the capacities (which ranged from 594 cc to 1116 cc) of their engines, most of which were based on the water-cooled 2-cylinder 4-stroke one powering the FIAT 126p. The 594 cc unit, utilized in the first prototype, developed 20.6 kW (27.6 hp) @ 5500 rpm, while a 703 cc variation generated 22 kW (29.5 hp) @ 5000 rpm and 49 Nm @ 2700 rpm. Any of these powerplants was enough to propel the Beskid to speeds of over 120 km/h (the FIAT 126p had a hard time reaching 100).
However Poland lacked the necessary technical infrastructure for the production of such ambitious vehicle. And the Fiat 126p as a donor was outdated. It is a shame, as this template was later made very succesful by the Renault Twingo.
The last Beskid was built in 1987. Bosmal put their 126p Cabrio into limited production. Later, FIAT 500 pick-up and van prototypes were developed and an interesting trike-car prototype was constructed.